If Microsoft lets Starfield go to PS5, the console war is all but dead — here’s why

Could Starfield appear on PS5?
(Image credit: Sony/Bethesda Softworks)

Not too long ago, our gaming gurus here at Tom’s Guide collectively pondered the following: what if Xbox Game Studios was to become a third-party publisher? Some of us thought this notion was fanciful (this pea-brained writer included), yet with recent rumors suggesting Microsoft is at least considering allowing two major exclusive IPs to make the jump to the PS5, perhaps there really was merit in that question we posed a few weeks ago.   

If the latest online whispers are to be believed, both Indiana Jones and the Great Circle and Starfield could potentially get PS5 ports (Thanks, IGN). This would obviously be a colossal deal for multiple reasons. Not only would Microsoft be handing Sony the keys to the biggest game to launch on Xbox Series X so far this generation, it would be sharing one of its most anticipated upcoming titles with its rival publisher, too. 

Squinting between the lines, there have been hints this sort of industry-shaking idea has been in Microsoft’s head for some time. At the turn of the year, stories broke that one of the biggest surprise breakout hits on Xbox in 2023 could be published on other platforms. Though we’ve yet to see it appear outside the Xbox ecosystem, rumors persist charming rhythm-action game Hi-Fi Rush could be PS5 and Nintendo Switch-bound

From a fiscal standpoint, it could be good for Microsoft’s bottom line to let Starfield go to PS5"

So exactly what could be the potential ramifications for both Microsoft and the Xbox brand if it let Bethesda’s sci-fi epic and potentially the best Indy game since 2003’s Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb willingly slip into “enemy” hands? 

Looking at it from a purely fiscal standpoint, it would probably be good for Microsoft’s bottom line. The company would get a nice chunk of change from all Indy and Starfield PS5 sales, and remember, this is a far bigger and more valuable company than Sony is ever likely to be. The House that Bill Built is hardly short of cash.

It also wouldn’t be a monocle-dropping shocker considering how Xbox Game Studios has been run under the stewardship of Phil Spencer. The CEO of Microsoft Gaming has always seemingly been of the mantra of “Xbox Game Pass first, hardware sales second."

During multiple, refreshingly candid interviews, Spencer has frequently talked about wanting to make Xbox games as accessible as possible. And if we’re talking access, there’s no better way to do that than by shipping your previously exclusive IPs off to a console that outsold Xbox Series X 3-1 in Europe last year.

(X)boxed in

Xbox Game Pass Core

Microsoft has kept relatively quiet on Game Pass subscriber numbers, suggesting the service may not being doing quite as well as the company would like.  (Image credit: Microsoft)

Maybe this is the next natural step in Microsoft going back to its roots as a pure software company. After all, The Big M essentially kiboshed any chance of Series X obtaining must-buy status as soon as it cooked up the concept of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.

For years now, you’ve been able to play the majority of big new first-party games at launch on the best gaming PCs thanks to Microsoft’s desire to embed the Xbox brand into Windows 11. As someone who enjoyed playing Forza Horizon 5 at 4K/120 fps on an RTX 4090, I’ll freely admit to being fully behind the company’s PC-embracing decision.

Once you factor in the recent Activision Blizzard acquistion, the concept of “Microsoft being a publisher first and a company that wants to sell Xboxes second” begins to make more sense. Let’s not forget, Xbox as a brand has access to a ludicrous number of IPs going forward. Call of Duty, Tony Hawk’s, Overwatch, Guitar Hero, Crash Bandicoot, Heroes of the Storm etc — not to mention its longstanding homegrown properties like Halo, Forza and the Gears of War series.

Gatekeeping any of the Activision Blizzard franchises above (particularly Call of Duty) would just be Microsoft taking money out of its own pocket when the majority of gamers choose to experience these titles on PlayStation, though.

Microsoft should be more worried about making Xbox a “can’t miss” brand again"

Perhaps Microsoft should be more worried about making Xbox a “can’t miss” brand again, like back in the days of Xbox 360. We already know hardware sales of Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are flagging behind PS5 big time, and the last time we heard about Xbox Game Pass figures, the number of subscribers involved doesn’t exactly flatter the subscription service model. Recently Omdia Senior Analyst James McWhirter predicted that Game Pass subs were around 33.3 million as of the end of 2023 (thanks again, IGN).

The ironic thing is, Starfield isn’t even a particularly great game. The hype train didn’t quite redrail it, but it’s probably fair to say it wasn’t the monster hit and pop culture cornerstone Microsoft was hoping it would become. Regardless, if Bethesda’s intergalactic RPG does indeed one day come to the PS5, it represents, if not a white flag from Microsoft in regards to the current console “war”, then certainly an industry-shaking change of direction for Xbox.

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Dave Meikleham
UK Computing Editor

Dave is a computing editor at Tom’s Guide and covers everything from cutting edge laptops to ultrawide monitors. When he’s not worrying about dead pixels, Dave enjoys regularly rebuilding his PC for absolutely no reason at all. In a previous life, he worked as a video game journalist for 15 years, with bylines across GamesRadar+, PC Gamer and TechRadar. Despite owning a graphics card that costs roughly the same as your average used car, he still enjoys gaming on the go and is regularly glued to his Switch. Away from tech, most of Dave’s time is taken up by walking his husky, buying new TVs at an embarrassing rate and obsessing over his beloved Arsenal. 

  • d0x360
    I don't think Microsoft cares about the console war, they are making (at minimum) $360,000,000 a month from game pass subscription and that's just assuming everyone is on the cheap plan.

    Microsoft will continue to make a console because they are simple gaming devices that just work without the (sometimes) hassle of PC gaming but I don't think they care how many they sell which makes sense because game pass is legitimately the model of the future and Microsoft got there first and Sony would do similar but they legitimately can't afford to. They are already complaining about budgets on their AAA games which is why we see the quick offset the loss by releasing a remaster for a horror game (niche) that didn't do well but this time also put it on PC. I liked until dawn but I have no interest in beating it for like the 7th time for $60..

    Anyways if I was Microsoft I'd keep games exclusive for a year, maybe 2 for SP titles. Then the real value proposition and reason to own an Xbox is game pass because on PlayStation those games cost money.

    Plus this makes perfect sense for multiplayer focused titles. More players = more better and unlike everyone else Microsoft doesn't need to cater to the live service model because Gamepass is a live service and constantly growing revenue stream.

    If I put myself in the mindset of me at 12 years old I can understand people's reactions but think deeper and ask yourself if it really matters because for $9.99 you get access to everything Ms makes and TONS more plus discounts on games and huge sales literally every week plus Xbox rewards.

    Oh speaking of people should really take advantage of bing rebates. Before buying a game or movie or anything from Xbl go to bing, activate rebates and get 8% back plus reward points for everything you buy... Consider that 8% I discount that you get back in a few weeks then withdraw it to PayPal at anytime instantly.. it's ******* fantastic! I started off using it on Xbox stuff but now I check any time I buy something online lol. I got a huge 12% rebate on my rog ally thanks to bing. Take advantage people come on!

    Also greenman gaming sells steam games for around 18% off for new AAA games like a month before release and often the week of release too. Only drawback is no refunds obviously but you can always buy on steam, test it then buy on gmg and get you 18% plus once you buy a couple games you get monthly coupon codes for another 2-4%. I just preorderd dragons dogma 2 and tomb raider remaster and I got 24% off... You can't beat that**** lol. I ramble when I'm tired, sue me.